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JD Moleski & Associates: A Crime

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Moleski recounts the theft of his company tools and offers tips for crime prevention.

The pulsating blue lights from the police cruiser reflected off the bro-ken glass littering the parking lot, looking like scattered pinpoints marking my location as I exited the hotel’s rear doors. The police officer stood to the left rear of my vehicle. I thought someone had hit the rear of my truck until I saw the back door was open, glass broken. The call came to my room only a few minutes earlier. A clerk only said, “Mr. Moleski, there is a problem with your vehicle; could you come outside?”

“Typical smash and grab,” the officer reported. “We’ll do a report; you give us a description of what’s missing.” It was quicker to take inventory of what was left, which I did, and then recited all that was taken: a Physical Measurement Technologies tool and its accessories, five tool-boxes, SafeTach™, a digital and ana-log tachometer, meters, a large valise of code books, a crate with my truck belongings (jumper cables, etc.). All in all, US$14,185 worth of gear consultants and inspectors use to work, but more importantly, what we use to run our business.

“We list all the stuff with our data-base and send it out to all pawn shops in the area,” the officer said. “The hotel has a video camera aimed this way, and as soon as the investigator can, he will look at the footage and see if we can get any information.” That took a few days, and the footage was worthless, just out of range for any usable information. What it showed were two guys, one at my truck and another using a flashlight, looking into the car beside my truck. Another vehicle entered the area, at which time the two jumped in their vehicle and fled the scene before they could finish cleaning me out or break into any other cars.

The area was Irving, Texas, in January 2010. Jump ahead to June 2011: there has been no recovery to date, and during my discussions with Irving police representatives, none is expected. “Your tools and equipment are specialty items and of no use to thieves, as they’re impossible to pawn. They’re probably in a landfill or river.” I had assumed as much the day after the theft. Soon afterward, we began the replacement process. Insurance covered US$1,500 (no misprint: only US$1,500 of US$14,185). Were we underinsured? Yes.

After the police left the scene, the hotel immediately and loudly claimed that it met all legal requirements by posting a small placard in the room declaring itself devoid of li-ability for theft of items left in vehicles. It did, however, offer me one free night!

We did not claim the US$1,500, either, as it serves to raise rates and does woefully little to replace our tools. The lessons learned here are many:

  • Carry enough theft insurance. Check with your vehicle insurer, business carrier and, perhaps, the American Automobile Association, if applicable.
  • Watch where you stay. The crime data for vehicle thefts in the Irving area are staggering. Research it or any area in which you are working or traveling.
  • When traveling, take a few minutes to ask questions about crime in the area. The day after the theft, I noticed that several gas-station convenience stores posted large notices about high crime rates and vehicle break-ins in the area.
  • Park in well-lit areas, near entrances. When I parked that first night, the only spots available were in the rear lot, in a dark area. The hotel employees had parked in the best spots, under lights and visible from the front entrance. Do you think they knew something?
  • If it doesn’t feel right, move on. I
  • wish I had, because I’d had an un-easy feeling.
  • We chose hotels in the mid-business class range.

When I parked that evening, after a long day, I was sick. All I wanted to do was crawl into bed, so I didn’t un-load as much gear as I would normally have. It was a major, nationwide hotel chain that I had used almost exclusively for several years. Once I reviewed how often my company had stayed with this chain in the past, an average of over 200 nights per year, the cost of the stolen tools and future spending for lodging, I expected better from it. No claim would be accepted. They did give me a single trashbag to cover my broken window (only after I asked the right person for it). The front desk clerk didn’t even want to give that up.

Losses such as this can cripple a small business. We have purchased some replacements, are buying more and have some duplicate equipment. Code books — who steals code books? They are expensive to replace, but how do you run a consultancy without them?

I remain in contact with the Irving police department. I believe they are doing the best they can with limited resources that are spread too thin. “Auto theft break-ins have changed in the past few years,” an Irving po-lice representative informed me.

“Thieves now have cars and can quickly go from hotel [parking lot] to hotel parking lot, smash and grab, head 40 mi. away to a different area, pawn the stuff, and have it gone the next morning.”

I check eBay and Craigslist routinely, but so far, not one item has surfaced. We also sent letters to several area elevator companies and consultant and inspection firms detailing our loss. Only one gentleman returned a message that he would be on the lookout. Since the robbery, I have re-turned to the Irving area several times on business. I always take time at night to scour local pawn shops in a 50 mi. range, but, so far, nothing.

My elderly mother loved to travel by motorcar and often in my motor-cycle sidecar. Having said that, I can assure you that I am as normal as any elevator guy. So, perhaps on a ghoulish note (and one that I smile about), my mother passed away about a year before the theft. I had asked the funeral director for a small amount of her ashes to spread in one of her favorite spots when she would visit me in Florida. He did so, and put them in a pill bottle, which I kept in the center console of my truck. When leaving for a trip, as I did on this one, I would tell Mom that we were going away again.

Well, the thieves removed my truck’s center console, taking several items with it, one of which was Mom. I can only assume they thought it was drugs. So, I told Mom the night of the theft, as I taped the trash bag over my window, “Hey, what an ad-venture you’re having!” As I said, she loved to travel and see new things, and was up for any adventure well into her 70s. Two days later, I found Mom jammed under the rear-seat bracket where she was thrown. I feel better. But, how are Mom’s feelings? I’m not so sure.

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